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Math for Witches

by Kat Beyer

1. Agnes and Hilda live on opposite sides of a village. Both must bicycle for 15 minutes to reach the village. They decide to meet for coffee in the village square at 20 minutes after moonrise. Neither has batteries for their bicycle lamps. Agnes decides to use her broom, while Hilda applies flying ointment. The moon is in Aquarius and neither of them has to pass over a standing stone or stone ring. At what time will each of them have to leave in order to arrive on time?

2. When Hilda does not arrive, Agnes decides to fly to Hilda’s cottage. Three minutes outside the village a gust of wind blows her off course over a stone ring. How long will she take to arrive? Assume a standard nine-stone late Neolithic ring.

3. Hilda has applied the wrong ointment: a Thrice-Speed Love Oil, which has brought a minotaur out of the ethers. She does not want to have relations with a minotaur, but he presses her and she must defend herself. She seizes a sheet of paper and sets him the following problem:

i is my interest in sleeping with a minotaur. Solve for i.



4. While the minotaur is working on this problem, Agnes arrives. Hilda greets her, apologizes, and explains the situation. Agnes replies that since Hilda is never late, she knew that something must be wrong, and apologizes in turn for getting lost in the otherworld. They sit and drink tea while the minotaur continues to struggle. Agnes decides the minotaur is cute (if dumb), and, since you, dear student, have already solved the problem for him, she takes him home to her house. If the minotaur weighs as much as 399 apples picked in the sign of Gemini, and Agnes can carry a gross of these on her broom, can she give the minotaur a ride, or must he walk?

Extra credit: if she used a disassembly spell how many flights would she have to make to carry all of him to her house?


1. This is a trick question. If the moon is in Aquarius, the flying ointment will hardly lift Hilda off the ground. She should use her broomstick.

2. 37 minutes, if she eats or drinks nothing offered her.

3. i=0, as Hilda’s attitude suggests.

4. No, he must walk.

Extra credit: three trips.


this is so cute! The idea seems quite original. I have read a few stories with extremely entertaining footnotes, which has a similar chuckle-inducing effect. I especially like the extra credit question because it brings the reader back out of the "this is a real experience" realm and into the "this is a math test" realm.

Posted by: David | February 3, 2009 2:01 PM

I really enjoyed this one, I love the quirky format. Very clever and well done!

Posted by: Jason | February 4, 2009 5:43 AM

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